This month’s playlist includes 28 fresh tracks from a spectrum of talented artists, including ATMIG, Ma Baker, Hello Forever, Ally Evenson and others. Featured artists hail from Michigan, New York, California and New Jersey.
It’s part of our ongoing multi-genre journey to bring the best of our discoveries.
With a raw, honest sound, The Gutter Daisies vigorously confront society’s deep fascination with a celebrity’s personal tragedy.
The Los Angeles pop-punk trio of Doug Rockwell (vocals, guitar), Miles Franco (bass) and Mike Diggs (drums) explodes with frustration about the public’s and the media’s treatment and exploitation of mental illness and depression on their latest single, “Celebrity Suicide.”
“We all grew up dealing with anxiety and depression. I feel like nowadays it’s even more common because of social media. It can be a great platform, but it’s also an extremely vain one that has created a false reality that’s unfortunately become an extension of actuality. It’s a place where everyone sees other people’s ‘best of section’ and then automatically assumes their own lives will never be as glamorous,” Rockwell said.
“Celebrity Suicide” opens with deep-tone, grungy guitars and quickly transforms into a rage-filled power protest as Rockwell angrily sings, “I wanna be like my idols/All fucked up in the brain/I could see it play out/Won’t play my songs while I’m around/Unless my life goes down the drain.”
“The same goes for the media. Paparazzi look for people’s weakest moments so they can sell that to media outlets so they can then bring in ratings. It’s all about making a fortune and not so much about the misfortune. ‘Celebrity Suicide’ is a song about just that with some sarcasm sprinkled on the wound,” Rockwell said.
“Celebrity Suicide” is the first new track The Gutter Daisies have released since covering The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in 2018. Their energetic banger of a cover nicely pays tribute to the legendary hip-hop and rap-rock trio’s 1994 classic.
“We were looking for a song to cover that everyone would know no matter who they were, but we didn’t want it to be something you’d hear a run-of-the-mill cover band playing at a local bar,” Rockwell said. “We also wanted it to represent us as a band. ‘Sabotage’ is pretty punk rock, and as soon as it was suggested, we knew we could make it our own without disrupting what the original song had already accomplished.”
The Los Angeles art pop collective brilliantly emits abundant ‘60s-infused rays of doo-wop, jazz, skiffle, R&B, classical and baroque rock throughout their sparkling 12-track, full-length debut, “Whatever It Is,” which drops Friday.
“It’s about acceptance and equanimity, and it’s about making peace with yourself,” said Samuel Joseph, Hello Forever’s lead vocalist. “It wasn’t a choice or decision. I find that when I try too critically to control the music, it doesn’t work out. The things that came through on the songs came on their own.”
Along with bandmates Gabe Stout, Andy Jimenez, Joey Briggs, Molly Pease, Anand Darsie and Jaron Crespi, Joseph spent 200 days in bedrooms and borrowed studios throughout Santa Monica and Castaic, Calif., to create and record elaborate arrangements for a sunny collection of concise pop songs.
“Some songs I wrote in five minutes and recorded the entirety in a single session. Other songs took a little longer than that,” he said. “I was doing everything I could to serve the creative process. It was awesome having the time and places where I could write and record these songs.”
Hello Forever’s scintillating “Whatever It Is” adventure starts with “Some Faith,” a two-minute head trip filled with high-tone energetic guitars, lush mash-ups of Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and sticky pop melodies – “I saw you in the light for the first time/Heaven cried ‘open’ and rained down on me/It was love, it was love/Why’d it terrify me?”
“‘Some Faith’ is about trusting your feelings or at least learning to trust your feelings when you care about somebody,” said Joseph about the band’s first single and video.
The Boston singer-songwriter will make her first live appearance at the intimate 48-seat music club with world-renowned bassist Freebo, who’s performed with Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
“Freebo and I have been working together for the last three years. He produced my last record, ‘Visions,’ which came out in May of last year, and he and I have been touring together a lot. For this show, we’re billing it as he will be my special guest, so he’ll do an opening set, and then he’ll back me on the bass,” said Howe about her set with Freebo for Friday’s sold-out show.
“It’s really fun because I get to sing harmonies on his songs, and it’s a really collaborative thing that we’ve put together that just works out really well for both of us. We’re excited to take that to Black Crystal.”
Howe forged a fateful partnership with Freebo nearly four years ago at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. After meeting and chatting with him, she went through her record collection at home and discovered his musical collaborations with Raitt, Young and a host of other rock legends.
“That was a very cool moment for me where I realized, ‘Wow, I’ve met somebody,’ and we had a lot in common as far as our taste in music and production styles and singing styles and all this stuff was so in line with each other,” Howe said. “I grew up listening to the era of music that he really came up under, so for me to meet somebody from that time was like, ‘Oh my god, I felt like he was sent to me.’”
Having Musical ‘Visions’
Those similarities quickly led Howe to enlist Freebo as her musical mentor, collaborator and producer for “Visions,” a 10-track, introspective folk-blues expedition filled with striking originals and smashing covers from Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan. It’s a gorgeous extension of her 2017 debut folk EP, “You’ve Been Away So Long.”
For “Visions,” Howe relocated from Boston to Bakersfield, Calif., to record her full-length debut with Freebo, Fuzzbee Morse (electric guitar), John “JT” Thomas (keys) and John Molo (percussion). In fact, her creative expedition begins with the nature-inspired “Twilight” and includes a much-needed Michigan winter sonic escape to a serene world dotted with dirt roads, sunlight, ocean and trees.
Each month, we’ll be sharing a fresh batch of specially curated music from emerging and established artists, including Amy Petty, Mason Summit, Mac Saturn and others, on Spotify.
This inaugural playlist includes 34 tracks from acts based in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, California and the U.K. It nicely reflects the multi-genre approach we take with profiling and featuring different artists on “The Stratton Setlist.”
Take time to absorb and enjoy some of our favorite tracks from an incredible group of artists.
Mason Summit brilliantly shines on the darkest January days.
The Los Angeles indie folk rock singer-songwriter thaws the winter blues with his latest magical single, “‘Round January,” which drops today via all streaming platforms.
Summit’s track fuses sorrowful acoustic guitar strums and delicate drum taps with vibrant electric and slide guitars – “I hope one day I can tell you this won’t last/And be right/Cuz I know how you get when the sun sets early/But there’s a better way/There must be surely/But maybe you’ll make it out alive/Maybe you’ll just survive.” It’s also ideally suited for a fruitful collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline.
In a sense, Summit’s exquisite combination of acoustic, electric and slide guitars represent the warring emotional factions within us. Deep inside, there’s a hope that wants burst through, but the darkness fights back with a vengeance.
“It’s specifically the month my dad died, and it’s also when I introduce the song now, and what makes it more broadly applicable to different people’s lives is seasonal depression. I probably experienced that unknowingly since before my dad died, you know the melancholy of those months, especially like the line, ‘when the sun sets early,’” said Summit, who also struggles with the lack of daylight in winter.
“It was just instant depression for me. It made me tired all the time, and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I don’t have it as bad as a lot of people, but it definitely influences my mood in a disproportionate way.”
Two years ago, Summit penned “‘Round January” as a response to a songwriting class prompt at the University of Southern California (USC). The prompt required students to write a song to their eighth-grade selves.
“And that was a week when a lot of people brought in some heavy stuff,” said Summit, a songwriting senior who will graduate in May. “It was just so provocative, and so I was thinking back to eighth grade, and middle school in general is when people tend to be struggling and trying to find out who they are.”
For Summit, the track also advocates the importance of therapy in tackling seasonal depression and other mental health challenges. He came from a family that believed in its long-term healing power.
“When I got to school, I met a lot of people who didn’t come from that and ended up having a lot of undiagnosed issues. They just didn’t know how to deal with it, and it took them so long to have the courage to go to therapy or go to a psychiatrist and start treating their illness with therapy and medication,” Summit said. “Whereas I had already started to sort that out by that time, there were actually specific people in my life I was writing it for as well as myself.”
Sunny State keeps summer’s bright, carefree spirit alive well into the dark days of winter.
The San Jose, Calif., reggae fusion sextet instantly transports listeners to a three-minute mind trip filled with calm breezes, warm rays and stolen moments on their latest single, “When You Know.” It’s the kind of uplifting sonic magic that keeps people young at heart, full of love and ready for adventure.
“Life can be so heavy that we really need to enjoy the ability to let loose ourselves and embrace the positive vibes that music can bring to us. I think that’s just a byproduct of what we get to share with other people,” said Chris Reed, Sunny State’s lead vocalist, ukulelist and guitarist. “They get to forget their worries for that amount of time they’re listening to us in their car or on the dance floor while we’re playing live.”
“When You Know” also celebrates Reed’s longtime relationship with his wife and reminisces about their first date as teenagers while driving south along U.S. 101 toward Los Angeles.
Bright acoustic guitars and vibrant synths fill the ears as swaying reggae island bass floods the soul – “First it was a drive in my blue ’69/Didn’t have no map/We just headed south/We pulled off the road/Got out and climbed that hill/It was our first kiss/I was under your spell.”
“I’ve loved that woman for so long now through all the ups and downs that every relationship goes through. The birth of our first daughter, Violet, catapulted my love to the next level, and then a second time with Indigo,” Reed said. “I mean there’s so much love there. We joke around with our kids like how can we feel this much love for them, and our relationship together prefaced from that.”